Oak Harbor mayor-elect offers kidney to stranger

Scott Dudley - --
Scott Dudley
— image credit: --

Oak Harbor Mayor-elect Scott Dudley may be out of the office for a few weeks this summer because he’ll be busy donating one of his kidneys.

And not to a needy family member, but a man from a small suburb of Vancouver, B.C., who he’s never even met. Admittedly, his first six months in office is not the most opportune time for a major surgery, but Dudley said the opportunity came up and he just couldn’t say no.

“It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while,” said Dudley, during a phone interview from Vancouver General Hospital.

Contacted for a separate issue, Dudley only revealed where he was when specifically asked by a Whidbey News-Times reporter. Dudley has been undergoing testing to insure he’s a qualified candidate for months but decided to keep it under wraps while on the campaign trail.

Dudley, a city councilman, won a hard-fought battle for the mayor’s seat with incumbent Jim Slowik this past November. He said he just didn’t feel the need to announce the procedure, which is still not guaranteed to happen, while running for Oak Harbor’s top seat.

“It’s not a situation where I’m doing it for votes,” Dudley said.

Rather, his family has a history of polycystic kidney disease. The genetic disorder results in the formation of cysts that can lead to kidney failure. It claimed both his grandmother and aunt and also afflicted his uncle.

Tests have shown that Dudley does not have the disease, nor is there a chance that he will contract it in the future. However, watching two of his relatives lose their struggle with the illness caused him to want to someday donate one of his own kidneys to someone in need.

That chance came along this spring. Dudley had been planning to go to Haiti on a humanitarian mission in February with his church, Living Word, but the trip was canceled last minute due to political upheavals in the small country.

As assistant governor for the Rotary Club’s district 5050, Dudley instead decided to visit chapters throughout the district including those in British Columbia. The decision would intertwine his fate with Keesha and Philip Rosario, residents of Haney in the district of Maple Ridge.

Philip, a 37-year-old small business owner, had just been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. He had no known prior family history with the disorder and only learned he was sick because he hadn’t been able to sleep for three days and begrudgingly went to see a doctor.

“I’m pretty stubborn,” Philip said. “I hadn’t been to the doctor for a while.”

You can imagine his shock when he and his wife Keesha were told that he had a fatal illness. Even worse, they learned that the waiting time for a kidney from a donor was eight to 10 years.

Keesha, who quickly became an expert on the condition, is a member of her local Rotary Club and was at a meeting and shared the news with other members. Dudley just happened to be sitting at the very same table.

He approached her afterward and Keesha said his face nearly “turned white” when she told him about the particular kidney disease afflicting Philip. But Dudley turned the tables on her when he said he was already looking to get on an anonymous donor list and would like to give Philip one of his kidneys.

“I’m tearing up just thinking about it,” Keesha said. “It’s unbelievable how the universe pans out. Through Rotary Club, a lot of amazing things happen.”

Months have since passed, and although Dudley and Philip have yet to meet or even talk by telephone, both have undergone a litany of tests to insure they are compatible matches.

At the time of the interview, Dudley had just underwent a CAT scan and a nuclear renogram, a test in which radionuclides are injected into the blood. They are monitored as they flow through the kidneys to gauge the organ’s health and function.

Dudley joked that he was feeling a little radioactive and wondered if he might set off a few alarms on his way back into the United States. Despite his humor, that’s actually happened, according to Dr. Christopher Nguan.

A urologic surgeon specializing in transplants, Nguan will perform Dudley’s operation. He said there have been cases where patients who have undergone renograms were stopped by border patrol agents for setting off radiation detection devices.

Although the test sounds invasive and uncomfortable, Nguan said it’s really rather benign. Even so, Philip said he is still trying to wrap his head around the idea of someone he’s never met doing so much for him.

“It’s amazing to me that some random stranger ... I have family that wouldn’t do this,” Philip said.

Additional testing is still needed and whether the transplant procedure will move forward is by no means guaranteed. If it does, and Dudley said things look good so far, the surgery would be done sometime in spring or early summer.

But if some unforeseen complication arises and things don’t work out with Philip, Dudley said that doesn’t mean it won’t with someone else. He would remain on the donor list, he said.

“The fact is somebody needs my second kidney more than I do,” Dudley said.

According to Nguan, removing a kidney is a major operation and not without some risk. But Dudley said he’s not worried. Today’s technology --- laptops and cellphones --- will help insure that he doesn’t miss much action at City Hall and he claims to be a fast healer.

“I tend to push the envelope,” Dudley said. “I bounce back pretty quickly.”

As for Philip, the disease is advancing and not knowing whether the procedure will really move forward is tough. But, with light at the end of the tunnel, he’s looking to the future with renewed hope, thanks to Dudley.

“I just think he’s one of a kind,” Philip said. “I wish there were more people like him. In my eyes, he’s a hero.”


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